In Prince George’s County, incumbent District 3 candidate Pamela Boozer-Strother had a sizable lead on her challenger, Varinia Sandino, according to early results.
Also in Prince George’s, District 6 candidate Branndon D. Jackson was ahead of his opponent, Ashley Kearney. The seat has been vacant since March, when Belinda Queen left the school board to run for county council. In the District 9 race in Prince George’s County, Lolita E. Walker was ahead of her opponent, Kent Roberson. A latecomer to the race, Jonathan Briggs, was ahead in the competition for District 2, despite only actively campaigning for about two months after the incumbent — Joshua Thomas — withdrew from the race in August.
Briggs’ top issues included student mental health challenges and school infrastructure. He attributed his lead to volunteers who helped him knock on doors and connect with voters on the condensed timeline. “I’m not claiming anything yet,” Briggs, 35, said late Tuesday night, “but I appreciate the shout-out and I’m looking forward to hopefully saying that I won this.”
Farther north in Frederick County, incumbent Karen Yoho was among the leaders of seven candidates in a tight race for four seats. Voters there were deciding whether to elect candidates from an Education Not Indoctrination slate, a group of three candidates who ran on platforms promising more parental oversight of education and more of an emphasis on academics, and four other candidates, including Yoho, endorsed by the county’s teachers union.
The Education Not Indoctrination slate was vocal against a statewide health education framework when it was being adopted by the Frederick County Board of Education, arguing that the framework was inappropriate for young children and that the school system needed to focus more on core subjects, such as math and reading.
Just before midnight, Nancy Allen and Cindy Rose, members of the ENI slate, along with Yoho and Rae Gallagher, endorsed by teachers, were leading the pack in the race that had changed leads multiple times throughout the night.
Tuesday’s elections come as school districts across Maryland are engaging in learning recovery efforts after nearly two years of disrupted learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fighting and other violent incidents have also increased in schools since students started learning in-person again, and multiple school districts have reported ongoing staffing shortages. School boards are also facing more challenges from parents and other groups arguing for more say in what students are taught in issues ranging from race to gender identity.
In addition to these challenges, school board leaders will be in charge of implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a landmark education bill that funnels billions in funds into public schools over roughly the next decade.
On Tuesday, voters casting ballots for school board members were focused on a variety of issues.
In Montgomery County, voters picked who would fill the District 1, District 3, District 5 and an At-Large seat on the school board for Maryland’s largest school district. Nonprofit owner Grace Rivera-Oven was in the lead in District 1. Julie Yang was outpacing appointed incumbent Scott Joftus in the competition for the District 3 seat Tuesday night — similar to her lead in the primary election. School board incumbents Brenda Wolff (District 5) and Karla Silvestre (At-Large) were also ahead.
At Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville on Tuesday morning, Eliane Demedeiros picked District 1 candidate Esther Wells, Yang, Wolff and Silvestre as her candidates of choice. Demedeiros — who has a junior at the high school — said she wanted to select women primarily for public service positions, because they “are more sensitive to a lot of the issues.”
“We should have more representatives as women out there to help enforce equality laws and things that we need to address on a daily basis,” said Demedeiros, 50. She added that she was satisfied with the school system but that bullying and school safety were some of her ongoing concerns as a parent.
Just outside of the William Talley Recreation Center in Frederick, Melissa Ward said voting for candidates endorsed by the teachers union was what drew her to the polls. “I’m very much concerned about the future of the school board,” said Ward, 46. She added that the Education Not Indoctrination slate was “a little fringy.”
Emily Seymour contributed to this report.